Mate limitation in an estuarine population of copepods
Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(4), 2008, 1656-1664 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.4.1656
ABSTRACT: We determined the probability of mating as a function of population density in the estuarine copepod Acartia hudsonica by combining experimental measurements with a simple model. Pairs of unmated copepods were confined in containers of various volumes to simulate variable population density, and experiments were run for 8, 16, and 24 h. Mating frequencies indicated that males search for females at an effective search volume rate of 0.34 ± 0.15 L h-1 or 8.2 ± 3.5 L d-1 and that males become ready to mate only after ~15 h exposure to the females. We applied these parameters in a simple population model to determine the critical density for zero population growth. With high egg production, zero mortality, and residence time of 60 d, the critical density for A. hudsonica was 0.01 m-3, at the low end of the range of observed population densities. Critical densities for less favorable conditions were well within the range of observed population densities, even allowing for the effects of aggregation. Thus, mate limitation in sexually reproducing organisms, or Allee effects, can cause negative density dependence in growth rate of these populations at low but realistic population densities. We applied these results to the introduction of exotic zooplankton via ships ballast water under various scenarios of initial dilution in harbors and subsequent conditions for reproduction and survival. Inocula resulting from the discharge of post-exchange ballast water were often high enough to establish new resident populations.